How does a great leader approach a serious mobility issue? To find out, I took a look at one of the most famous disabled of all time: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
FDR contracted polio the same year I was born. Until my research, I never realized his circumstances shared many similarities with my own.
Of course, I most likely will never be presidential material and I wasn’t fully diagnosed with multiple sclerosis until I was 73. FDR, on the other hand, was paralyzed at 39 while campaigning for the office. But the actual details, many evident in the new movie Hyde Park on the Hudson, were largely unpublicized.
FDR was paralyzed from the waist down. Though I am not paralyzed myself, we both have the similar bowel and urinary issues, and I can hardly walk without assistance. Roosevelt lost the use of his legs due to polio and rose to become president, an important step for disabled people that was hidden for years.
Early movie teasers of the new FDR film, Hyde Park on Hudson, show Academy Award winner Bill Murray depicting a fragment of FDR’s political life. It focused on the weekend when he entertained the King and Queen of England in their first official visit to the United States in upstate New York.
I was particularly fascinated with how Bill carried out this role and in particular, a four-minute featurette which shows how he adapted to the mobility aides of the time. In real life, FDR was seldom seen as disabled and Murray obviously enjoyed learning to drive with custom hand controls in a 1936 Ford Phaeton.
He looks convincing as he is lifted around by assistants uses leg braces (thank God I haven’t had to deal with these). FDR portrayed by Murray exemplifies the powerful life that can be attained by someone seriously handicapped.
Roosevelt managed to unite the country in going to war and united America in a way few presidents have managed to emulate. He founded Social Security and was the longest serving president the US has ever had. FDR is one of the most admirable presidents our country has ever seen, all despite (and perhaps because of) his wheelchair.
Thank you Mr. Roosevelt, you contributed greatly to our lives.